If San Francisco and Melbourne decided to get friendly and produce a child then I reckon Vancouver would be it. I spent 4 days in San Fran. a few years ago and it has long been etched in my travelogue of memories as one to return to for a much longer period. Melbourne is the city I currently reside in and is rightly voted as one of the best cities in the world to live in. Vancouver was a recent discovery of mine a few months ago.
On first arrival, I remember walking through San Francisco and having that feeling that I was in America even though I had never previously been. It was the little things like the yellow traffic lights (which were a novelty), grates emanating steam from the middles of roads, the nuances of accents from the melting pot of migrants that has settled over the years; I loved Big Trouble in Little China in the 80s and this walk through the city brought what I remember from that movie to life. Walking through Vancouver reminded me of a lot of San Fran. I also loved the bay, and of course the Golden Gate Bridge, and when I walked under the Lions Gate Bridge in Stanley Park – it’s the bridge that connects the main city of Vancouver with North Vancouver – it reminded me of the connection between the main city of San Francisco and Marin County.
And Vancouver has many similarities with Melbourne. It’s Vancouver’s laid back feel, the amazing craft brewers in little nooks and crannies, the obvious love and knowledge of food – both in eating out and cooking at home. There was just a really positive vibe and pride which is inherent in Melbourne and it emanated eclecticism and artistry intermingled with modern technology (I had to go and see the site of a certain sporting video game company).
Living in Melbourne is an incredible experience for those that love food; it is a food oriented city that buzzes with the cascading colours of a multiculturalism. It has the largest Greek community outside of Athens and Thessaloniki, a vibrant Italian community, a bustling Chinatown , an iconic Little Vietnam, A huge Middle Eastern community, an active North African community, and of course its fair share of fair dinkum Aussies. Can you imagine the food you can get here? It’s immense.
And Vancouver reminded me of this. As a cook, chef and food lover it possessed some magical food experiences.
The Grouse Grind is famous in Vancouver as the torturous (for the unfit) hike up Grouse mountain – a slog up 2,830 steps over 2.9km. At the top is the magnificent Observatory Restaurant with its incredible and intricate tasting menu and magnificent views of Vancouver. There is an easier and preferred way (cable car) to get there, so if you are going to eat at the restaurant it’s not recommended to do the Grouse Grind just prior as sweaty messes (as I was the first time) would surely be turned away. But just the idea of a fantastic restaurant at the top of a mountain thrilled me – and when I returned the second time, less of a physical wreck, I ate there and the food was really, really good.
I had some of the best oysters I’ve ever eaten at a great seafood restaurant I stumbled upon in North Vancouver – Kusshi oysters; plump with a clean, salty creaminess that defied belief.
Downtown enlightened me with another highlight that was the local poutine; essentially chips (fries) with cheese curds and gravy. Not the best looking of dishes but an incredible indulgence. The best poutine was one with confit of duck and duck gravy, cheese curds, chips and all adorned with fried eggs.
Washed down with a local craft ale made for the most delightful lunch – and one that required more than a Grouse Grind to work it off.
I loved the Granville Island Market, a true food lovers heaven. What struck me was how much care was put in to the presentation of the vast array of fruit, vegetables, fish, seafood, meat, cheese and delicatessen style comestibles.
Even after the poutine my hunger returned with a vengeance. And it was at this market that I made one of the greatest discoveries of the trip – candied and spiced salmon jerky. An amazing intensity of salmon flavour offset by sweetness and spice. The texture was amazing; the salmon had a jerky-like chewiness with a sticky coating of viscous maple syrup. I bought a bag of the jerky and spent a whole afternoon walking around this wonderful city, discovering, observing and chewing on my new-found delight.
Once back in Melbourne it was time to get down to some creativity in the kitchen and try and replicate this delicacy.
I often salt-cure fresh Tasmanian salmon fillets with a hint of citrus, coriander seed and star anise. I decided that this would form a great base for the jerky. The key to getting the textural consistency was to reduce the moisture content of the salmon to a level that induced chewiness but didn’t go too far as to render the salmon inedible. In addition I wanted to reduce the moisture in the maple syrup to increase its viscosity and thus it’s stickiness – but not take it too far so that it dried out.
Once the salmon had been cured I prepped it into strips, brushed them with a maple syrup and hot cayenne pepper mix and then laid them out on a Silpat (silicon mat).
I put the strips in an oven at 60 deg. C (140 deg. F) and left them to dry out for 12 hours. Every 3 hours I brushed the strips with the maple syrup and hot cayenne pepper. After 12 hours the oven was turned off and the salmon was left in there for another 12 hours. The result was pretty amazing – so much so that on munching on the first piece I was instantly transported to Granville Island Market.
Serves: Few for a snack | Preparation: 30 minutes + 10 hours for citrus cured salmon | Cooking: 12 hours + 12 hours resting
Portion citrus cured salmon | recipe is here.
180ml maple syrup | don’t use a maple syrup flavoured substitute it’ got to be the real deal.
1 tsp. ground hot cayenne pepper |
Prepare the citrus cured salmon.
Preheat an oven to 60 deg. C (140 deg. F) – some ovens have a ‘warming’ setting so do go as low as 60 deg. C. Use an oven thermometer to check.
Cut the citrus cured salmon in to strips – about 1cm square and 5-8 cm in length.
Distribute the strips on a silicon mat (or a baking sheet lined with baking parchment) so that they don’t touch each other. Mix the ground hot cayenne pepper with the maple syrup and brush the strips with the mix, ensuring to also do the underside of each strip. You will have some maple syrup mix left.
Put the salmon in the oven for 12 hours. Every 3 hours carefully brush the strips with the maple syrup mix ensuring that you don’t break the strips as they do become more delicate and brittle.
After 12 hours, turn the oven off and let the salmon jerk dry and cool in there for another 12 hours. At last it is ready!
Your can store the jerky in a plastic snap-lock bag or something similar – As the salmon has been cured the strips will certainly keep for a week or two in the fridge. Eat as a snack – amazing with a glass of Prosecco.